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How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over by Mel Robbins at TEDxSF 2011

A TED Talk A Day, Day 29: This talk by Mel Robbins touches on topics that are important to all of us: how to get what we want, and to really get that sh*t done.

  1. The first question to ask is: “What do you want?” Ask this in the “selfish” sense; this is not meant to sound good to others, it is about you, or me.
  2. Getting what you want is simple. But it doesn’t mean it is easy. The information about how to get what we want is already out there — on the Internet, in bookstores.
  3. One of the problems is the F-word: “fine”. We tell other people we are fine when we are not, and the bigger problem is that we say it to ourselves and try to convince ourselves that we are fine not having what we really want.
  4. Saying we are fine is also way of telling ourselves we don’t have to do anything about the things we really want. That is why we don’t push ourselves to get there.
  5. We are fortunate: the odds of each of us being born in the situations we were born in are 1:400,000,000,000 (400 trillion). Yet what is the first decision we usually make every day? We hit the snooze button. And we “snooze” not just our mornings, but other things that we do.
  6. The fact is this: we are never going to feel like it. It is what scientists call activation energy — the effort it takes to switch from auto-pilot to doing something new.
  7. It is our job to make ourselves do what we don’t want to do so we can be everything we are supposed to be. The problem is we keep waiting for ourselves to feel like it, but we’re never going to feel like it.
  8. We have to force ourselves to break our routine. Robbins sees our brains as having two modes: auto-pilot and emergency brake. Most of the time we operate on auto-pilot; but when we are asked to do something we don’t want, our “emergency brake” is activated. Try this: set your alarm of 30 minutes earlier, and when it goes off, jump out of bed immediately. This puts us face-to-face with the physical force that is required to change our behaviour. This force is the same one that is required for us to do the things necessary so we can get what we want.
  9. It’s our routine, our auto-pilot, that’s killing us, because we are doing the same thing most of the time.
  10. When we feel stuck or dissatisfied, it is a signal about our life, the same way we feel hungry when we need food, and thirsty when we need water. But it doesn’t mean our life is broken. It is a signal that our need for exploration is not being met.
  11. We all have a need for exploration and growth, and the only way to get that is to be uncomfortable. To do that we have to get out of our own heads, past our feelings, outside your comfort zone. The first moments of getting outside our comfort zone is difficult, but after that it is fine.
  12. The 5-Second Rule: If we don’t take action on an impulse we have within 5 seconds, our  brains pull the emergency break on us. “Your problem isn’t ideas, the problem is you don’t act on them.”

Suggested action step: I will do the things that lead me to where I want to be, especially if they are uncomfortable. I will act quicker on my impulses (something I have already tried to practice).


Random threads of thought, floating in my mind.

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend about consistency and taking action, and I told him how I felt that taking action consistently wasn’t really one of my strengths. In comparison I thought he seemed a natural at getting things moving.

He thought for a bit and said that he never actually saw himself as consistent; what he did do though, was tell everyone that he was consistent — and through his need live up to that he became more consistent with what he did.

This, of course, is a fantastic example of cognitive consistency, not to mention public accountability. But I also realised that so much in life is actually within our sphere of influence — the question is which parts we want to focus on.

We might not live long enough to be perfectly perfect in all areas; yet isn’t there so much that want to change? What if we chose to?

What am I choosing to change, and what am I doing about it? How can I step up?

Today I came across 100 Days Without Fear, a wonderful project by Michelle Poler to face her fears so she could “feel her life while she’s in it”. This remind me of a similar project: 100 Days of Rejection by Jia Jiang, who went on to write the book Rejection Proof and give a TED talk about his experience.

Every time I read about challenges like this… I just feel like I want to do the same: step out in a big way, out of my comfort zone, out from my old life, and into something new. Someone once told me that sometimes you just need a massive change in life to move things forward.

Needless to say that fear is the only reason I haven’t done it.

What if I gathered some people to do it though? Would that help me (and them) overcome the fear of something like this? Would anyone join?

I’ve met many people who say they want to do things, but few who actually followed through. Like I told someone today: when we take up the challenge of the things that matter most to us, that’s when all our buttons will get pushed, that’s when we will be pushed to our limits.

There was a moment today when I realised how much time we spend focusing on small things, not seeing how intensely wrapped up we are in things that don’t matter. And yet we fear and stress out about them with our entire being, and we act out our entire lives based on them.

And most of the time we don’t realise we’re doing it.

The worse part is when we pass this fear, stress and obsession on to the people around us, to our loved ones, to our colleagues, to our friends. It can often feel like like comfort and connection to obsess together, but it isn’t — it’s actually more like passing an illness around endlessly.

How great it would be if we could pass joy around instead, like a contagious laugh.

All of us will die eventually. It’s the only destination we share in common.

(If that depresses you, then let Louis CK lighten it up for you — “…you’re going to be dead for way longer than your life, like that’s mostly what you’re ever going to be. You’re just dead people that just didn’t die yet.”)

Anyway, the thing is we all have to form some beliefs about that fact, and come to some conclusion about it so we don’t walk around with that thought it our heads all the time. We can also avoid it, of course. Which most people do.

A couple of months ago I was talking to an dear old friend of mine, and explained that this question formed a core part of what we call spirituality, and that the beliefs and conclusion we come to also affect the rest of the decisions we make in our lives, thus affecting how we live it.

If I’m honest I’d say I never thought very much about it till this year. I mean, I thought I did, but I was really just running away like most people do. But now I’m beginning to believe something about it, I sometimes get that gnawing feeling inside that’s telling me I’m not really acting 100% from those thoughts and beliefs yet.

 So I guess the question is: what am I going to do about it?

…and suddenly this songs plays:

“Who knows where the road will lead us? Only a fool would say.”All The Way, James Darren

Fight for, not against

Recently I’ve been wondering if I’ve been trying to fight myself too much.

I get into trying to do the right thing, into “overcome myself” and my own “resistance”, and trying to “push my own comfort zone”. Sometimes it’s sounds like I’m trying to be anything but myself.

I’m all for pushing comfort zones and it’s often an amazing way to grow.

But there are times when thinking of ourselves as the enemy feels decidedly counter-productive. It’s an unnecessary use of mental energy because our minds will fight back, simply because there is someone pushing us.

Wanting to change for the better isn’t the same thing as fighting against who we are now, even though sometimes it feels like it is.

What if instead of fighting against ourselves, we fight for what we value and fight alongside who we are now, like comrades-in-arms?

We can then be our own champion and partner in crime as we try new (and sometimes challenging) things.

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